The Simple Points
A poker night should be a casual affair centred entirely on the game. It’s one of the few parties where a t-shirt is undeniably appropriate. There’s no guest of or theme, it’s all about the poker. So, there shouldn’t be any other entertainment either. You don’t have to lay any money on the line if you don’t want, it’s perfectly acceptable to just play for fun.
If you have regular poker nights then your guest list is predetermined, just invite the same guys as last time. If this is the first time, or even if your poker nights are few and far between, choosing who to invite is a harder choice. It’s best if everyone plays on the same level, but you don’t want to freeze out the rookies either. The hardest part is whittling it down. You’ll typically have no more than eight people playing each hand, so inviting more people means either splitting up to play multiple simultaneous games or people are forced to sit out. I’d say you should look to have eight players or however many can play at your table, whichever’s less.
Obviously, you need a place to play. The best is a dedicated poker table in a room that’s decorated for such activities. If that’s not viable, you can use your dining room table, but not the kitchen. Besides your usual hosting duties, you’re also responsible for providing the cards and chips.
Poker night is the time for the pub food. Chicken wings, nachos, and various deep fried appetizers are perfect fare for the occasion. This is also the time to break out the craft beer and your best scotch. If you don’t feel comfortable mixing drinks while you’re trying to play, don’t feel you have to. You’ll also want to either make sure serving food doesn’t take you away from the table too much, or get some help. If you get help, ask someone you live with or is also playing.
Cigars are a traditional part of the poker night, but you may not want to do any smoking. If you’re using a room you wouldn’t smoke in otherwise, then skip them. Same if anyone there doesn’t want to be around that. They have a right to clean air, you don’t have the right to smoke. If you decide to include cigars, you need to provide ashtrays. You can either provide decent quality cigars yourself, or expect everyone to bring their own. If you do provide them, one per person is plenty. Its important enough to reiterate, don’t force anyone to be around smoking or exclude anyone because they want clean air.